Biological Anthropologist & Primate Behavioral Ecologist
I am fascinated by the variety of ways in which humans and our closest living relatives exist. To better understand the extent of human variation, I examine the ecological and biological factors that may have influenced life in our evolutionary past. This evolutionary framework is sometimes difficult to apply to the fossil record, particularly when examining social behaviors such as grouping patterns and mating behavior, so I have focused my interests on the lives of our closest living relatives, the nonhuman primates. My research to date has focused primarily on gibbons, small endangered apes living in Southeast Asia, but earlier work has examined nutritional stress during pregnancy and lactation and mother-infant interactions in captive baboons.
My dissertation project, "Life at the extreme: the behavioral ecology of white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar) living in a dry forest in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Thailand," documented the behavioral and ecological flexibility that is present within one population of gibbons and indicates that there are limits to this flexibility. My next projects will examine these limits more intensively, specifically determining the nutritional quality of the diet when food resources are scarce and mapping intergroup relationships as they relate to territoriality and dispersal. This knowledge is of critical importance for gibbon conservation and should also give us pause as we reflect on our own actions that are drastically changing the world's landscape.